|The Cascade Affair
Author: arctapus PM
An old evil threatens to engulf Cascade as Illya Kuryakin hurries to prevent the unthinkable. REPOST TO FIX A GLITCH! I apologize to all who were affected by this mix up. I hope its good to go now. :Rated: Fiction M - English - Suspense/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 6 - Words: 61,375 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Updated: 12-19-10 - Published: 11-25-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6503747
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: The Cascade Affair
Warnings: Slash, S/K , violence, some language and adventure.
Summary: An old evil comes back to haunt the men from U.N.C.L.E. as they battle to save Cascade from international danger.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I just make them happy by playing with them.
The Cascade Affair
"No Man Is An Island"
It was raining very hard. Water was dripping from the brim of his hat as he labored. The slope was steep and he moved slowly, dragging the heavy weight behind him. The rush of water nearby was loud and muffled the sound of his grunts as he carefully edged toward the river. The heavy weight he pulled slid against his feet as he slowed and peered into the darkness ahead of him. The sound of the river was high and he knew he was close. Moving once more, he reached the edge, the black surface rushing past him at high speed.
Sighing, he wiped his face with his hand and then turned, staring down at the dark figure of a man lying splayed out behind him. In the center of the dead man's forehead was a dark and perfect circle, formed by the skill of his own deadly hand. Blood had been washed away in the rain but he could see something else, something gray and wet. He knew what it was and it satisfied him.
It had been a perfect shot, a clean one. It was his usual shot. He prided himself on his skill. It was his signature and a challenge to all the pretenders that had begun to plague his profession of late. No one could shoot like him; no one had steadier hands. With a sigh of contentment, he reached down and rolled the body into the river, listening as it splashed in, sliding away into the night.
For a moment he stood, listening to the wildness of the river and the low moaning of the wind. It was primal; the sort of thing made real that which only raged in his soul. He absorbed it and then turned, walking back up the sloping embankment and onward through the woods to his car. Soon he would be home, warm and comforted, surrounded by familiar things and safe with the only one in his life that mattered.
In seconds, he was up the hill and gone. Below him, floating on the swiftly flowing water, his victim disappeared from view.
The voice rang out from the kitchen. He smiled as he considered all the familiar odors and sounds that met him in the doorway. Breathing deeply, a slight smile formed on his lips as he stepped inside, pulling off his wet overcoat. A face peered around the corner, wine glass in hand. "You look soaked."
"Better change. Dinner's almost ready."
"Yes, *dear*," he replied good-naturedly. Sitting on the small bench by the door, he pulled off his shoes, water dripping off the laces.
"You've mud on your feet."
He glanced up, noting the curious look on his companion's face. Grinning slightly, he nodded. "Very perceptive of you."
"Put them by the door. No sense in dragging mud all over the place."
The dark haired figure disappeared around the corner again, taking his warmth with him. Sitting on the bench, struggling with a stubborn lace, he sighed. This was home, this was safety. Wherever his friend was, he himself was content. Illya Kuryakin pulled off his shoe, placing it on the floor and then the other one. Sitting back, rubbing his face with his hands, he considered the long day he just concluded. It was good to be home, he thought, rising and tugging at his tie. It was damned good to be home.
November 20, 2000, Cascade Police Department, Major Crimes ...
It was late afternoon before he finished all his reports, stacking them on the desk with satisfaction. He didn't care much for paperwork, a proper policeman attitude for a proper policeman burden. Sandburg usually took care of the typing but he was busy lately. Midterms were upon him and it meant that he was more and more on his own.
Jim Ellison sighed and rose stiffly, stretching like a big cat. He was a strong and well-made man, muscular in all the right places and lean in all the others. He had a strong face, blue eyes that could impale you with a glance and an intense and quiet disposition. He gathered his things together and turned, aiming to walk out the door toward home, dinner, a beer and the game on the tube. Regionals, he considered, the regional playoffs would be on tonight.
He paused and turned, putting a resigned expression of pleasantness on his face. Behind him, standing in the doorway, his superior officer gestured. Moving with deliberate grace, he walked to where Captain Simon Banks was standing, cell phone plastered against his ear. Waiting patiently, he sighed as he glanced around, noting the dearth of people available to take what was obviously turning into another squeal.
Banks clicked off his phone and turned to Ellison. "We have another murder."
Jim nodded, sighing inwardly. He would be up all night. "What's known?" he asked, shrugging into his jacket.
"Same as the others. A clean shot to the head. Body found in the river. You're on it. Taggert is already there and so is the M. E. I want your impressions, Jim, before it's all taken away. Here's the address." Simon turned and scribbled on a piece of paper, handing it to Ellison. "Better hurry. It's raining pretty good and night is falling fast."
Ellison nodded silently and turned, heading for the doorway. Gone was dinner. Gone was his beer. Gone was the basketball game that he had looked forward to for three days. He walked out the door and down the corridor, moving toward the parking garage below. By midnight he should be finished and heading for home. It all depended upon the rain though. After all, the other three murders were all-nighters too. There was nothing to indicate that this one would be any different. With a nod to another passing by, he entered the elevator and disappeared from sight, heading for another frustrated and probably minimally productive evening in the rain.
Rome, August, 1964 ...
He slid into a chair next to his partner, his eyes never leaving the street beyond them. A sidewalk cafe in a plaza was a good stakeout point and they relaxed into their chairs. At least one of them did. Napoleon Solo sipped his wine, rolling the sweet red liquid around in his mouth, savoring it with his discriminating palate. A good year he considered abstractly, his eyes never leaving the cafe across the way.
Beside him, his partner, Illya Kuryakin, sat sphinx-like, his blue eyes roving over the entire area. They were a good team, unalike and yet very companionable. They had been here for a week, following a young man as he made his way around the city. For hours, they would sit and watch, the oppressive heat of summer bearing down upon them.
Solo luxuriated in it. Rome was one of his favorite places, the instinctive familiarity of his ancestral homeland reminiscent of his growing up. He had never forgotten his family roots, trips to Naples and Sicily as a child reinforcing them and he always enjoyed himself in Italy. Illya, on the other hand, took each place with a grain of salt. Single-minded to a fault, he always put the job ahead of the ambiance. Solo despaired of ever changing the enigmatic and ever-surprising figure beside him. "Anything?" he asked, popping a grape into his mouth.
"Nothing," Kuryakin replied sourly. "Same as yesterday. Same as the day before and very likely same as tomorrow."
"There are worse places to be, my friend," Solo replied silkily, his equanimity about things very clear.
"True. However I find heat oppressive."
Solo glanced at his partner's profile, noting his gold colored hair with amusement. Waverly's directive on male hair not to exceed officially approved lengths passed over his partner's head. Again. "I can imagine. Not much heat in Siberia."
Illya glanced at Solo, at the patrician profile and heavy-lidded eyes and smirked slightly. "What would you know about Siberia?"
"I once was there. Providenya. I was tracking polar bears for contraban."
Kuryakin snorted, glancing back across the square. He slipped on his dark glasses, hiding the only window to his soul available to outsiders. "I'm sure you were," he agreed with a smirk, propping his feet up on another chair. Reaching for a piece of cheese, he sighed. "It's damned hot, Napoleon. I can't imagine growing up here."
"I can," Napoleon replied. "I spent a lot of time in this city. If you weren't such a Marxist, I would show you the sights."
"I have an appreciation for art and architecture, I'll have you know," Kuryakin replied tartly. "After all, my people did create the Kremlin, St. Basil's and St. Petersburg among many other things."
"True," Solo replied, nodding. "However, there's a part of you that calculates the cost of things and multiplies it by potatoes."
Kuryakin smiled in spite of himself. "Think of how many people wouldn't go hungry if St. Peter's Basilica were converted to cash."
Solo smiled and glanced at his partner. "Plenty," he agreed amiably. "However, I thought you were in favor of the cashless society."
"Only when I have to pay, Napoleon," Illya replied, sitting up as their mark walked out of the cafe across the way. He sighed as the blast of sun hit him as he stepped out of the protection of the awning. "I hope this one finds what he needs and decides to go to Finland. I don't know how much longer I can stand this heat."
Napoleon drained his glass, rising and picking up his own sunglasses. Slipping them on, he joined his partner as they shadowed the figure nearby. He grinned as he watched the silent man beside him. "Finland?" he asked as they stepped into the plaza and all its crowds.
Kuryakin glanced back, a ghost of a smile on his lips. "It's the off season in Siberia."
Solo grinned and nodded. "Oh," he replied as they disappeared into the crowd all around them.
November 20, 2000, on a river front, Cascade ...
It was late that night when they took the body away. It was partially decomposed, having hung up on a tree branch but the evidence of a single shot was still clearly seen on his slightly blue- and green-tinged face. Ellison sighed and turned, walking up the hill behind the morgue team. He hated floaters. They made his stomach turn over. Because of his unique nature, their smell stuck with him longer than most people.
Sometimes being a sentinel had its disadvantages.
Reaching the top of the embankment, he stopped and turned, noting the team working below to scour the ground. He himself had detected footprints in the wet grass but they were faint and indistinct, partly disturbed by the weight of a body being dragged over them. There would be few clues. Whoever had done this was a professional.
No clues were indeed discovered. They had managed to trace all the dead men from before and they did have a similar thread between them. There were Mafiosi. Each of them belonged to a criminal organization that specialized in murder, drugs, prostitution and money-laundering. They were all enforcement men, all but this one. This one didn't look like he worked for a living. He looked like he ordered others to do that for him. They would have to scour the databases of the world to find this one, he had a premonition. This identification was going to be elusive. This one spoke management, not muscle and this one looked clean.
"This is a bitch," a voice said, walking up behind him.
Ellison turned and noted the drenched face of Joel Taggert as he stood next to him. Rain dripped off his chin and he looked tired. Ellison nodded. "What do we have?" he asked.
"Not much. Clean body, clean shot. He seems to be too smooth to be a laborer. My guess is someone is shooting contract killings for someone trying to muscle in or move up."
"There's three Mafias involved here, Joel," Ellison mused. "There's Chinese, Italian and Russian. Someone is trying to move in on what?"
Joel shrugged. "I don't know but this feels like a power play to me."
Ellison nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Again, it could also be a vengeance move on someone's part. It could be someone who had a grudge against what they do or someone who doesn't want dirt to pile up in our great and fair city." Jim grinned and turned to Taggert. "We done here?"
Taggert nodded. "I was done before I got here. I'm going in and then going home. Maybe they'll tell us the score of the game on the radio."
A sour expression filled Jim's face and he nodded. "With our luck, the Jags have been eliminated."
Joel smiled. "Hurry up and go home, Jim. I'll post the initial report and call it quits. You do too."
Ellison nodded and watched as the large figure walked away toward the lighted parking lot beyond the tree line. He turned and looked at the grass, staring intently and well, far beyond the capacity of normal people to see. Not being a 'normal' man, he noted the progression of steps and the sliding trail of a body. There were small fibers that looked like they came the mark's coat and he gathered them from the grass into a glassine bag.
Rising from the earth, he looked around methodically and found nothing that he didn't know already. It was frustrating and bitter to him as he turned and walked up toward the light and the other officers. By the time he reached his truck, he was soaked, the last official vehicle had pulled out and he was alone in the droning rainfall.
Looking up at the sky, his eyes squinting against the falling rain, he considered the forecast. It was going to last for days. As he did, he considered something else. None of the murders ever happened on clear nights. They were all killed in the pouring rain. Musing on that observation, Jim Ellison climbed into his truck and slowly drove off. Behind him, undisturbed once more, the river rolled on into the night.
Rome, August, 1964 ...
It was late when they got to their hotel. The day had been very unproductive and after following their mark back to his hotel, they gave up the watch and settled for a late dinner and sleep. Standing on the balcony, staring into the darkness, Napoleon Solo considered their options. The young man was obviously a mule for bigger and more interesting prey. He was a courier for information, memorizing it so that he wouldn't have to worry about hard copy theft.
It was clever and the man who was involved in the transmittal was unlikely. They had almost overlooked him, considering a long time how T.H.R.U.S.H. was managing to get complex and necessary information past their many and sundry checkpoints. No matter how much they searched, they couldn't figure out how information was getting from point A to point B. An off-hand remark by Illya had given them another direction to go.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that the bugger was memorizing it."
Memorizing it, indeed, Solo considered, staring at the lit end of his cigarette. He heard a sigh behind him and turned, peering into the room once again. Kuryakin had removed his shoes and socks, lying back on the bed with a contented exhalation. Solo smiled, remembering the grousing and barely contained ill-humor of his partner throughout their day. This mission was hard on the Russian, his thick blood hardly conducive to dispelling heat. He was more the Baked Alaska type, Solo considered with a smile.
Solo turned and leaned back against the balcony, the smoke of his cigarette floating through the air before him. He watched it curl, its white hue barely visible in the darkness surrounding him. He watched as Illya sat up slowly, scratching the back of his head with his fingers. "Have an itch?" he asked, watching as the figure paused and squinted out at him.
"Shower. It helps."
"Do you have itches, Napoleon?" Blue eyes peered intently at him, bright against the slightly tanned skin of Illya's face.
"You look sunburned."
"I feel like I'm a crisp," Kuryakin replied sourly, rising and walking toward Solo. He moved past Napoleon, leaning against the balcony rail, the soft evening breeze therapeutic. "Finally, a cool breeze."
"We're lucky to get that. Zeus must have taken pity upon you," Napoleon replied, expertly and effortlessly blowing a smoke ring. Kuryakin turned and watched it waft in the air, dissipating until it vanished. He glanced at Solo, a slight grin on his face. "Since when do you believe in gods?"
Solo shrugged slightly, glancing at his partner. "It pays to cover all bases."
Kuryakin smiled, a broad effort for him. "That's what I admire about you, Napoleon. I admire how you cover all your bases." With that, Kuryakin turned and walked into the room, gathering his sleep clothing as he continued on toward the bathroom. Solo watched him disappear before sighing deeply.
/... you have no idea, my friend ... no idea at all .../
The next morning ...
Illya Kuryakin crossed the plaza, moving to stand outside the small shop into which the mark had disappeared. It was old, filled with oddities and a few tourists looking for bargains. He ached to go inside and grab the young Englishman who had led them on such a merry chase. However, given the gravity of their assignment, he didn't dare. Across the way, standing with a nonchalance you can only be born with, Napoleon Solo waited.
Kuryakin moved back, walking to a newsstand to peruse the papers on display. He had lost track of how many languages he could speak, fluency being among the many intellectual strong points he exhibited. He pretended to look at the news until a familiar figure exited the shop. Turning, watching over the top of his sunglasses, Illya nodded to Napoleon and waited until the handsome brunet was in front of him. Purchasing a copy of Pravda, he picked up the rear, moving off after Solo leisurely.
Watching him go, two men stood in the shop doorway, noting both of their presence. Turning, nodding to his companion, one of the men slipped back inside. The other, moving off down the sidewalk, followed Illya Kuryakin at a distance.
November 22, 2000, Manhattan ...
He stood at the window, dinner finished, brandy snifter in his hand. Some place else in the apartment close by, he listened as his partner talked to someone in a language spoken softly enough that he couldn't discern it. Of course, even though he was no slouch himself in the foreign language race, Illya Kuryakin was his master. The taciturn Russian, famed for his lack of conversational facility could converse with almost anyone who stepped off a plane from another country.
The man had gifts, that was for sure. Solo had sensed it from the moment they were introduced to each other. There was something subterranean about the Russian when Solo took his hand, something deep and unfathomable, like murky water. It had been slightly off putting but in the end, they were fast friends. All it took was shared danger, cramped quarters and a sure knowledge that of all the games of chance they both took part in willingly, he, Napoleon Solo was the better at baccarat. He grinned at the consternation that Kuryakin felt each time Monte Carlo intruded into their life. Games of pure chance, games that couldn't be intellectualized were his downfall. He was a man who didn't like loose threads, unanswered questions or things that go bump in the night.
Especially things that go bump in the night.
Solo sighed and sipped his liquor, the bitter warm taste comforting. Things had been going along well until lately and now there was turmoil around every corner it seemed. The agency was functioning at peak efficiency but so were the bad guys. Lately, it had been about terrorism, drugs, cartels and criminal alliances. T.H.R.U.S.H. had gone underground, its tentacles reaching out far and wide. The good guys were having to work harder to find them, the main and auxiliary branches of worldwide evil-doing.
Solo smiled slightly. Evil-doing. If he heard that word once more he was sure he would do desperate things. It was too simplistic for the foe that he faced ... had faced for over forty years. Since becoming head of U.N.C.L.E., North American Division, he had crested a wave that married technology with good old-fashioned bone and muscle, making for a formidable but barely publicly known force for good.
Of course, the technical and practical was helped along by the formidable. His partner for the entire course of his career hung up the phone, staring into the fire that crackled in the hearth. Illya Kuryakin was his right arm, his right *frontal lobe* for that matter and they worked seamlessly, sometimes so well he wasn't sure where he himself began and the Russian ended. "Good news?" he asked, turning and staring at the figure on the couch.
Kuryakin shrugged, his blond hair reflecting the light of an expensive lamp. Tiffany shade, Solo mused, a gift from his aunt. Housewarming, she had said, handing him a box wrapped in golden paper. He had been pleased, the pretty device something he had enjoyed since a child. Illya had been especially delighted to see it, his artistic eye more than entranced by this rival of Russian ingenuity.
"This should assuage your Faberge lust for a little while. Lord knows this sparkles rather well don't you think?" he remembered saying, looking at the intense expression on the other man's face. He remembered Illya smiled at him, unreadable emotion in his eyes. "It will do," was all he said. Solo had looked at him, noting the fringe of darker blond hair that curled around Illya's neck and ears. Brown and gold ... honey, Solo mused.
He blinked and looked up, noticing Illya's curious gaze. "What? What were you saying?"
Illya considered Napoleon. "You've been doing that a lot lately. Are you not feeling well?" A frown crossed Illya's face, a frown of worry and concern, the frown that Napoleon hated and tried not to be the cause.
"I'm sorry. I feel fine. Just a little tired. What was the news?" he asked again, moving to sit beside his partner on the couch.
"They found another body. Same place, same modus. Do you want me to look into it?"
Napoleon considered Illya's request. He knew that Illya could find out a lot but it would mean having him away for a few days. That would never do. It never did before. He hated when they were apart but duty called. "Can you do something or do you just *think* you can do something?" Napoleon asked, his dark brown eyes fixed on the pale face beside him.
Illya shrugged, considering the unspoken behind Napoleon's words. "I can help, I think. I just want to know if you'll be all right if I go?"
Napoleon set his glass on the low table before him and leaned back, a slight look of resignation on his face. "I don't like you to go."
"Then I won't go," Illya replied smoothly, moving closer to Napoleon. He slid his arm behind Napoleon, leaning against his shoulder as he did. Napoleon relaxed against him, comforted by the contact.
"That being said ..." Napoleon began only to be interrupted.
"I don't *have* to go, Napoleon," Illya insisted.
"*That* being said ... I think you need to go. I want your opinion and I don't trust anyone else in the world the way I trust you. Go, but come back quickly."
Illya stared at him for a long silent moment and then nodded, rising and pulling Napoleon to his feet. He stared at Solo, saying with his eyes that which came most difficultly to his tongue. He nodded again and slipped his arms around Solo, hugging him closely to his body. Napoleon hugged him back, warmed by Illya's strength. "I will only be away as shortly as possible," Illya said, sighing softly. "I don't like to be gone anymore than you like for me to go."
"I know," Napoleon replied, his cheek rubbing against the soft silk of Illya's hair. "I just miss you, that's all."
"I miss you too," Illya said, squeezing Napoleon tightly. "Come. Let me rub your back."
Napoleon nodded and walked to the bedroom where he slipped out of his clothes and into a quick shower. Illya, staying behind a moment, closed the apartment up for the night, taking his nightly rounds for security. When his exacting standards had been met, he turned off the lights and walked into the bedroom, placing his loaded UNCLE special on the nightstand next to the bed. Napoleon was lying on his stomach, naked on the bed, his eyes closed as he waited for his partner.
Illya paused and smiled, noting how he was still as trim and fit as ever, even after all the years and adventures they had been through. Dropping his robe, he moved to the bed and straddled Napoleon, working with his hands to relax the tight muscles of his partner. One by one, slowly but surely they gave, Napoleon relaxing more and more into the bed. "That feels good," he said, his voice slurred slightly with fatigue.
"Good, Napoli. Just close your eyes and go to sleep," Illya replied as he rubbed Napoleon's back. "Let me help you, Napoli."
"You come back to me," Napoleon whispered, slipping into the haze of nothingness that preceded sleep.
Illya watched him, he listened for Napoleon's even breathing and nodded, slowly rubbing the older man's shoulders with gentle fingers. "I will always come back to you, Napoli," Illya whispered as he dropped a kiss on a jagged scar that ran along Napoleon's shoulder. "I will never leave you alone."
November 23, 2000, somewhere over Colorado ...
Illya Kuryakin sat in a seat on the private jet that belonged to U.N.C.L.E., North America. It was one of several, all of them at the disposal of Napoleon Solo and his operatives. Ordinarily, Illya might have availed himself of flying the jet, its sleek lines purring under his capable care. However, he didn't this morning. He was torn between duty and the desire to be home, working side-by-side with his partner. The night before, he had lain in bed, Napoleon sleeping beside him. He had wanted to make love, to carry something of Napoleon with him on this crosscountry jaunt from their home in Manhattan to the rain-slicked streets of Cascade, Washington. But Napoleon was too tired and under Illya's capable hands, he had fallen asleep.
It was good, really. It was what Napoleon needed. Ever since ... He killed the thought, the overriding memory that had haunted him for all these years. He shoved it out of his mind and concentrated on the problem at hand. He would be home soon and it would be good. Parting was getting to be harder every year that passed. They weren't good away from each other anymore.
"You look very handsome," Napoleon had commented, noting the expensive three- piece suit that Illya had donned. It was black of course but the shirt was blindingly white and the tie, conservative and traditional, looked good with the blue of his eyes.
"Thanks," Illya replied, taking the jacket into his hand. He turned and looked at Napoleon, dapper and handsome as ever in his specially tailored, handmade, imported Italian silk suit, leaning against the doorjamb with his arms crossed. Nothing ever looked bad or out of place on Napoleon. Illya had commented upon it once after they had both been doused in a river. He had looked like a drowned rat but the other man had looked as suave and debonair, if not a bit wet as ever. "I don't know how you do that," Illya had said. They were sprawling along the bank, gasping for breath from the exertion of trying not to drown and Illya had finally said it outloud.
"What?" Napoleon had asked, his guileless response as terribly attractive to Illya as the first time.
"We both fell into the river. We both nearly drown. Yet even so you look like you could go to the opera."
Napoleon chuckled, that bright smile shining on his handsome face. "Some of us are born to the purple, Illya."
He remember snorting derisively out loud, making his usual flip Marxist remark even though in his gut he knew that what Napoleon had said in jest was true. Napoleon was a prince from another era, flawless, impeccable and gallant. It made Illya love him all the more, knowing this and all the truer, more vulnerable things about Solo. And love him he did. With a purer flame than the sun, he considered.
He looked out the window, staring at the cloud layer that prevented looking directly at the earth below them. They were cruising at nearly forty thousand feet, flying nearly seven hundred miles per hour. In a few hours they would land and he would go to the Cascade Police Department, meeting with a Captain Banks. He considered how long it would take and how soon he could go, leaving this coast behind as he turned to go back to his own.
The short trips taken lately had begun to pall and being away from Napoleon, even for so short a moment as making rounds for him on hard cases was interfering with his and Napoleon's peace of mind. For him, for Illya Kuryakin, there was nothing more important to him than that simple item. "Pilot," he asked, pressing a button.
"Yes, sir," the voice replied over the intercom.
"How long until we arrive?"
"Three more hours, sir," the pilot responded.
Illya sighed and pulled a pen from his pocket. Opening it, he smiled. Every time he did this simple thing, the smile came from some place far away. Even with more sophisticated instruments available, he had kept his pen and so had Napoleon. They used them daily, the privacy of their channel more than compensating for the low tech quaintness it represented. "U.N.C.L.E., this is Kuryakin. Open channel D. I wish to speak to Mr. Solo."
A voice answered, a male one and Illya smiled again, another time intruding into the present once more. "This is U.N.C.L.E. HQ, Mr. Kuryakin. I will patch you through. One moment please."
The voice, though male, was soft and professional, a far cry from the sexy women's tones that used to greet them when they would call from who knew where.
"Hello. I'm three hours from Cascade, some place over Colorado," Illya said, listening intently to Solo.
"Sounds exciting. I'm here in the office pushing paper. Nothing more on the Silk Road affair, I can tell you now."
"Too bad. It was a promising lead," Illya replied. "Did you have a good breakfast? I'm sorry I had to get up before you."
"I ate here. I'm fine, thanks. Don't worry about me. I'll get by. Barely."
Illya grinned. "You do guilt trips very well."
"Only if they work and I don't especially hear regret in your tone, my friend."
Illya swallowed hard. "Yeah, well ... us post modern men you know."
"I know," Napoleon said softly. There was silence a moment. "I miss you already."
"I miss you, Napoli," Illya replied, swallowing around the lump in his throat. "I want you to take care of yourself until I get back. I've put too much time into you to have you go and do something silly."
"You have, have you?" Napoleon replied with a chuckle. "I'll remember that."
"Good," Illya said, sighing and shifting in his seat.
"Are you flying the plane?" Solo asked.
"No not this time. I didn't feel much like it without you here to back seat drive me over the edge," Illya replied, a grin on his face.
"Hurry and come home," Napoleon said, a slight trace of loneliness in his voice.
"I will," Illya promised. "I will come home as soon as possible."
"Give my regards to the Pacific Ocean," Napoleon said with a sigh. "Call me tonight when you get settled if you have to stay. Call me if you aren't staying. If you come home, I'll wait up for you."
"That is not good, Napoleon," Illya said worriedly.
"I'll wait for you," Napoleon said softly. "Solo out."
"Kuryakin out," Illya replied, listening as the comm link was broken. He stared at the pen for a while and then replaced it in his jacket. Looking out the window, waiting for Cascade to arrive, he felt very, very lonely.
November 23, 2000, Cascade ...
Blair Sandburg stood outside the door of the Cascade Police Department waiting for the arrival of Jim Ellison, his partner of nearly a year. It was pouring rain but he stood under the entryway, sheltered. The street was wet, pools of water littering clogged gutters here and there, making crossing difficult. As he stood waiting, a black car arrived with tinted windows. He watched as a driver exited the vehicle quickly and opened the door, allowing a man dressed mostly in black to climb out.
The man was of indeterminate age, certainly sixty or there abouts. He had Slavic features, a thick thatch of blond hair heavily streaked with gray and quiet blue eyes. He wore expensive clothes, a three-piece suit with tie and a long black overcoat. His shoes were Italian leather Blair decided, as the man grew closer to where he stood. Blair smiled and nodded, the other returning the nod. "Raining hard, huh?" Blair asked his friendly nature and curiosity returning.
"Very," the stranger replied, a slight indeterminate accent to his voice.
"Got business inside?" Blair asked, grinning as he stood by the door. He reached and opened it.
"Yes," the man replied, smiling in spite of himself. "I have to speak with people in Major Crimes. Do you know which direction that might be?"
Blair smiled and nodded, following the stranger inside. "I work there."
The stranger paused and turned, looking at the youngster standing beside him with an uncannily appraising eye. "You?"
"Sure," Blair replied, grinning slightly. "Actually, I'm an observer," he began as they turned and walked up the corridor together. The elevator was open and they approached it. "I'm doing my dissertation on closed societies, such as police departments and other hierarchies. You know," he said as they both stepped into the elevator, "the thin blue line and all that."
Illya Kuryakin smiled in spite of himself as the door closed in front of him.
June, 1962, New York City ...
Napoleon Solo stood by the window smoking. Mr. Waverly, his boss had just told him something that he had heard in the grapevine for weeks. It was now confirmed. He would be partnered with a man who was from the United Soviet Socialist Republics, a Slav named Illya Kuryakin. He had heard of the man, someone with an impressive intellectual and physical repertoire and almost no personality that could be easily discerned short of a pick and shovel. People who knew him said that he was a shy person, quiet and intellectual with a streak of stubborn irascibility that was hard to fathom. He was strong in spite of his stature and tough in a way few were. In short, he was a dangerous and lethal weapon.
He was also Solo's new partner.
Napoleon sighed, aware of the contrast between them. He had come from money, old money and this man was a Soviet. He had little to go on about him other than the thin dossier that the Soviets had given to U.N.C.L.E., a listing of birth, schools, army service and so forth.
For a Soviet citizen coming from a place where you had to keep internal passports on your person or you didn't exist officially, this Kuryakin fellow had gotten around. He had a scientific background and education and was skilled in languages, shooting, explosives and other esoterica not normally in the public school curriculum. It should make for few dull days. A couple of friends who had met him told Solo about the Russian. "He's not very friendly, Napoleon. Not much on conversation. He can shoot and handle himself very, very well. Just don't expect to talk much."
Solo sighed, well aware of his own urbane personality. He was outgoing and self-assured. He was conversational and witty, someone people liked to get to know and more times than not the life of the party. Now they were saddling him with a man who not only didn't talk much but seldom was seen in the company of people, especially women. He preferred his own company apparently.
Turning at the sound of the door opening, Solo noted a pretty woman entering. Behind her, dressed in a black suit and tie, Illya Kuryakin followed. He schooled his face into a pleasant expression. The woman smiled at him, winking and paused before him with a smile. "Napoleon Solo, I would like to introduce you to your new partner, Agent Illya Kuryakin. Mr. Kuryakin, this is Chief Enforcement Agent, Napoleon Solo."
The two shook hands, brown and blue eyes meeting levelly as they took the first measure of each other. The woman stepped back, a smile on her face. As she did, she handed Napoleon a dossier. "This is the Silk Road case file, gentlemen. If there is anything more you need please let me know."
"Thank you, Martha," Napoleon said with a smile. They both watched as she left the room and then turned to each other once more. "Welcome to U.N.C.L.E, Mr. Kuryakin."
"Illya," he replied, his voice almost musical with an accent that had been refined by foreign travel.
Napoleon smiled and nodded. "Napoleon." He gestured to a nearby desk, moving to sit in the chair behind it. "Shall we get busy?"
The Russian nodded and moved a chair nearby, beginning between them a partnership that would last the rest of their lives.
Blair Sandburg leaned against the desk, the one that Jim Ellison used. He had crossed his arms as he watched Simon and the stranger greet each other. He had walked over and casually assumed a position that would give him a straight line of sight into Simon's office. They had both sat down and were talking, Simon sharing the data on his desk with the enigmatic figure. As he did, Jim Ellison walked inside. Moving to his desk, he removed his coat, hanging it on a hook. "I thought you were going to wait outside."
Blair nodded, his eyes riveted on the conversation in Simon's office. "I was but I had to help someone. A man arrived who wants to see Simon so I brought him up."
Jim turned and looked toward Simon's office, noting the two men inside talking. "Who is that?"
"A man from New York City. He said his name was Illya Kuryakin," Blair replied, glancing over his shoulder at his partner.
Jim paused a moment, a frown coming over his face. Glancing at the office once more, he looked at Blair. "Illya Kuryakin?" he asked, surprise on his face.
"Yeah, Illya Kuryakin. Sounds Russian. Why? Do you know this guy?"
Blair's interest was piqued and Jim stared at him for a moment, hesitant to continue the conversation. Blair straightened up and turned, facing his partner. "So ... give."
Jim shrugged, memories of another place and time forming themselves before he shoved them back inside the corners where they had lurked all these years. That was another place, another time and he didn't want to revisit it. He sighed at the look on Blair's face. "I know him. His name is familiar to me. He works for an agency involved in international crime prevention, an organization not known to very many people. It's called U.N.C.L.E., United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. He's sort of a memorable man."
"U.N.C.L.E.? I've never heard of U.N.C.L.E.. Why?"
"You're not suppose to. They sprung up in the Cold War, the idea of a man called Alexander Waverly. He proposed an international effort to combat crime, especially cartels of criminals that made things difficult for everyone. You know ... spies ... the Kremlin ... 'bang-bang, you're dead' ... that sort of thing."
"And this Kuryakin? Is he famous or something?"
"Or something," Ellison agreed, sitting down to face the mountain of paperwork that never seemed to get any smaller. He sighed. "Are you going to help me or am I on my own on this one?"
Blair grinned. "I will if you tell me all your stories about you and this man."
Ellison frowned. "There are no stories."
"You're lying. I always know when you're lying," Sandburg replied, crossing his arms in a stubborn imitation of the older man. "Tell me or enjoy your life, such as it is." He grinned brightly, enjoying the struggle within Ellison and crowed inwardly when he finally caved.
Ellison sighed long-sufferingly and nodded. "Tonight. After dinner. You cook it."
"Me? Why me? I've been doing the laundry lately and who cleaned out the shower?"
At that moment the door opened and Simon called out. "Ellison, come in here."
Jim rose and moved to comply when he felt Blair at his elbow. Pausing, he looked at the young man. "He called just me, Sandburg."
"So. I'm coming too. We're partners, remember?"
Blair stepped past and entered the office, moving to lean against the wall. Ellison sighed and shook his head, following his partner inside. Once there, he closed the door and turned, noting the figure sitting in the chair before him, cup of coffee in his hand. They stared at each other, both remembering the other but neither spoke of it aloud.
Simon watched and then moved closer. "Detective Jim Ellison, this is Chief Enforcement Agent Illya Kuryakin of U.N.C.L.E., the North American Division. This other fellow-"
"Mr. Sandburg," Illya interjected with a nod. "We've already met."
Blair smiled and glanced at Jim, noting the tight expression around his eyes. The stranger was someone who had gotten under Jim's skin, making him nervous and wary. The stories he expected to extract from his partner ramped up a notch in his expectations.
Simon cleared his throat. "Agent Kuryakin is here about the murders. He's interested in the path of bodies that has led from overseas to Cascade."
"You're looking for linkage," Blair ventured.
Kuryakin nodded. "This string of murders, all neat, all within cartels that operate in America -the Chinese, Italian and Russian Mafia- has left a trail from the Middle East to here. We've traced a number of inexplicable similarities through our brother bureaus all over the world. We find that they appear to be dead ending here in this city."
"What would they all have in common? Besides the killer's M.O?" Jim asked.
Kuryakin shrugged, rising and setting his cup on the counter nearby. "That's what I'm here to find out. Our agents are gathering information on the structures of this trio of different entities to find the common thread they share, besides death of course. I am convinced that this began a long time ago and is only now bearing fruit for a very old and very ruthless foe."
"And?" Blair asked, caught up in the enigmatic man's soft recitation.
"Have you ever heard of a crime organization called T.H.R.U.S.H.?"
They sat a moment, considering his words. Simon glanced at Jim, the tall man listening quietly as he leaned against the wall. He nodded. "I heard about it when I was in the army. They were a foe and a half if I remember. They had their hands in every criminal activity coming out of the Middle East and in the disintegration of the old Soviet Union. They were a force to reckon with as I recall. Then they disappeared."
"They didn't disappear," Kuryakin interjected, standing by the window, watching as fat droplets pelted the clear panel. "They operate on another level now, mastering entire stratas of commercial endeavor while compromising entire political systems. It is no mere coincidence that my country collapsed. The internal decay had been set in motion by T.H.R.U.S.H. a very long time ago."
"Why would they be here, killing Mafiosi in Cascade? What would it mean to them to be here?" Blair asked, drawing a withering glance from Jim. He ignored it, concentrating on the intense man staring out the window.
"There must be something in the city that means something, that this place is a place worth their interest. Right now, someone is sending a message. It could be that T.H.R.U.S.H. is making this city their own. What we have to do is find out who is doing it and what they want. That's where you come in," Kuryakin said, turning and staring at the three men. "I have to go to New York tonight. I will be back in three days. I would suggest that you consider who has the most to gain from the diminution of the usual criminals and their controls. That might lead us back to the source of this shift in power. It is that, you know. A realignment of the power that undermines everything and everyone it touches."
For a moment, there appeared to be more to the comments of the quiet man before them and then it was gone. He sighed and shrugged. "I must go. I would like to remain in touch with you gentlemen," Kuryakin said, pulling a card from his pocket. He handed it to Simon, nodding to the others. "Thank you for the coffee and your time. I will be in touch with you shortly." With that, he turned and walked out, moving toward the door with purposeful steps.
Blair glanced at Jim, at the preoccupied expression on his face. "Well? What do you think?" he asked, watching as Simon stared at the card Kuryakin had handed him.
Jim turned to Blair, shrugging. "I've learned it's a futile thing to try and figure out this man."
Simon nodded. "Right now, I want you to organize a flow chart of every gang and tong in this city. I want to know who's riding whom and what the word is out there. If another organization is muscling in on the game here, we could be seeing just the tip of the ice berg in terms of murder and mayhem."
Jim sighed deeply, the shadows of another time on his face. "If that man says you can expect it, you can take it to the bank." He turned to the others, his face grim. "Trust me on this one."
Blair stared at him, a feeling of unease filling him. "We better get on it then."
With that, the two men walked out the door and onward to their priority assignment. Little did they know where it would end.